Have you ever noticed that your eyes get drier when you are outdoors? This is completely normal: environmental conditions are one of the causes of dry eye. We explain all in this article.
What is the link between environmental conditions and dry eye?
Environmental conditions can contribute to the development of dry eye. These factors can disrupt the production of natural tears or increase tear evaporation, leading to dryness, redness, irritation and many other symptoms.
What conditions can increase dry eye when you are outdoors?
- Dry environments, such as arid climates or any places with low humidity, can increase tear evaporation, which can cause or worsen dry eye syndrome.
- Exposure to air pollution, especially fine particles and chemical irritants, can irritate the surface of the eye. This can also lead to increased tear evaporation and, as a result, dry eye may get worse.
- Extreme weather conditions, such as strong wind and cold, can cause increased tear evaporation and dry eye. Outdoor activities in cold and windy weather can also increase the amount of poor-quality tears. This is not a normal phenomenon, as your vision may be blurred; these reflex tears respond to mechanical or chemical aggressions that create irritation, which can ultimately damage the cornea.
- Sun exposure can have an impact on dry eye, due to harmful ultraviolet rays and reduced blinking induced by brightness. UV rays from the sun can damage the outer layer of the cornea, which can result in the eyes feeling dry. In addition, when we are exposed to high levels of brightness, we tend to squint, which can reduce natural blinking. This disrupts the distribution of tears over the surface of the eye, leaving the eyes dry.
- Exposure to smoke, whether due to smoking, air pollution or other sources of smoke, can have a negative impact on dry eye. Smoke contains many chemical irritants and fine particles that can irritate the surface of the eye, trigger inflammation and increase tear evaporation. People who are frequently exposed to smoke, including both active and passive smokers, may be more likely to experience dry eye symptoms.
Tips to reduce dry eye outdoors
- Wear sunglasses: a pair of high-quality sunglasses provide protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, as well as from wind and airborne particles. Choose sunglasses that block UVB and UVA rays, for maximum protection.
- Use protective goggles if working in an environment where you are exposed to flying particles, dust or other irritants, to prevent eye irritation.
- Stay hydrated: make sure you stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day (between 1.5 and 2 litres of water per day). Adequate hydration helps maintain tear production.
- Avoid drafts: if possible, avoid staying close to fans, air conditioners or other sources of drafts that can accelerate tear evaporation.
- Blink regularly: try to remember to blink regularly (around 1 blink every 4 seconds). Blinking helps to evenly distribute tears over the surface of the eye, which hydrates the cornea.
- When you come in after being outside, consider cleaning the edges of the eyelids and the eyelashes with eyelid wipes, to remove excess grease or residue and dust. The free margin of the eyelid is where the most grease and residue accumulates; it is also where the openings of the meibomian glands are located.
It is important to note that environmental conditions can affect each person differently, depending on their individual sensitivity and the severity of their dry eye syndrome.
IF YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM DRY-EYE ISSUES, PLEASE SEE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST.